The NHL continues to be extremely confusing with their punishment system as Joffrey Lupul will only receive a $10, 000 fine for dislocating Patrick Eaves’ jaw.
During the Winter Classic between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings, Lupul cross-checked Eaves in the face after he received a hit he thought was close to his own head. However, Lupul hit the wrong player as it wasn’t even Eaves who delivered the questionable hit.
Given that Lupul was suspended a year ago for hitting someone in the head along with forcing Eaves to leave the game after the cross-check, it seemed obvious he’d be serving at least a two-game suspension. The NHL is desperately trying to crackdown on head-shots, and Lupul’s cross-check to the head has seen incidents that weren’t nearly as vicious receive suspensions. As a result, the NHL has continued to once again blur the lines of what is suspension-worthy and what isn’t. Players across the league will grow more confused as to how someone can dislocate an opponent’s jaw in front of 105,000 fans along with millions watching at home and not miss a game.
Although the lack of a suspension makes no sense from a league-safety point of view, the last thing the Maple Leafs needed was another player suspended this season. Dion Phaneuf, Nazem Kadri and David Clarkson have all been suspended already and it’s only the midway point of the season. For a team that has routinely been suspended after targeting the head, it’d make sense for the NHL to want to use the club as an example as a team that hasn’t learned its lesson, especially with a repeat offender like Lupul.
Regardless, with the NHL missing the boat on sending a message, the Maple Leafs will try to take advantage as they look to win their fourth-straight game when they host the New York Rangers. It seemed almost a given Toronto would be without a key player in a significant battle in the standings as Lupul’s chances of playing against the Rangers seemed slim at-best. The Rangers are five points behind the Maple Leafs for a Wild Card spot in the playoffs, and it’ll be the second time in five games Toronto plays New York. The Rangers defeated Toronto 2-1 in a shootout at Madison Squad Garden on Dec. 23 and will now look to do the same at the Air Canada Centre.
However, given that the Maple Leafs have won three straight since their loss in New York, the Rangers will likely be facing a motivated Toronto club looking to avenge their loss from two weeks ago.